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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiating the nature of nature : a cultural models approach to meaning, motivation and cooperative resource management in the Yukon Washbrook, Kevin


Yukon land claims settlements mandate that First Nations and the territorial government cooperatively manage renewable resources. As these groups are brought together in decision making, developing an understanding of culturally specific constructions of the non-human world and the ways in which these motivate managers will be necessary if conflict in management is to be avoided. This paper explores the usefulness of a cognitive approach for clarifying the ways in which shared cultural models for the environment motivate individuals to pursue different actions in resource management. In the Yukon, important, motivating models for First Nations and non-First Nations individuals appear to be, respectively, that Nature is a set of social relationships and Nature is a system akin to the economy. The influence of these models upon resource management is examined through the case study of an interaction over catch-and-release fishing regulations. Understanding the operation of these models in the north, where First Nations are situated as embedded communities in the larger non-Native society, requires a framework such as that provided by a distributive model of culture. This paper uses such a model to examine the production, dissemination and patterns of distribution of schemas for Nature in the north, and the ways in which local and scientific knowledge compliment and conflict in the negotiation of meaning. This examination points out that models for Nature are used not only to interpret the non-human world, but also to mark identity and to resist or promote incorporation into the larger society. Though it cannot provide complete explanations for behaviour or decision making, a cultural models approach to cross-cultural resource management is capable of providing insight into the motivations which underlie the actions of managers and resource users. More generally, the approach provides a framework within which to examine the distribution and contestation of meaning in society, and the ways in which these meanings motivate individuals. As a result, it allows anthropology to study society and culture without creating false dichotomies between individual and social meaning and without relying upon conceptualizations of culture as an overly coherent system.

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